The Irish immigration market is constantly evolving. Here our immigration team highlight key issues employers with existing and future Non-EU National employees should consider.


In general, employment permit applications can take 1-3 weeks to prepare depending on the speed at which the necessary information/documentation can be collated.

Once filed with the DETE, standard applications can take up to 20 weeks to be processed. Applications submitted on behalf of employers registered on the Trusted Partner Scheme will be processed in 14-15 weeks.

If the applicant is a visa requiring national, they must complete and submit a visa application to their local Irish Embassy/Consulate before travelling to Ireland. Official guidelines state that such visa applications can take up to 8 weeks to be processed.

Government Processing Fees

A government processing fee of €250-€1,500 will be payable in respect of all employment permit applications depending on the type of employment permit being sought and the period to be covered by the employment permit.

Separately, a processing fee will be payable in respect of each Irish entry visa application. A €60 processing fee is payable in respect of a single-entry visa.

50/50 Rule

In general, an employment permit will not be granted to companies unless 50% or more of the employees in the firm are Irish/EEA nationals at the time of the application.

However, this restriction may be waived in respect of start-up companies within 2 years of their establishment (i.e. the date upon which the company was registered as an employer with the Irish Revenue Commissioners) and which are supported by the Irish enterprise development agencies, Enterprise Ireland or IDA Ireland.

Labour Market Needs Test

In order to ensure that job opportunities are made available to Irish and EEA nationals in the first instance, employers must satisfy a Labour Market Needs Test before a General employment permit or a Contract for Services employment can be issued to a non-EEA national.

This means that the employer must advertise the vacancy:

  • with the Department of Social Protection Employment Services/EURES employment network for at least 2 weeks; and
  • in a national newspaper for at least 3 days; and
  • in either a local newspaper or jobs website (separate to the Department of Social Protection Employment Services/EURES website) for 3 days.

There are certain exceptions to the requirement to carry out a Labour Market Needs Test including:

  • Where the job is an occupation included on the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List.
  • Where the job offer is in respect of an eligible employment with a minimum annual remuneration of €64,000.
  • Where a recommendation from Enterprise Ireland or IDA Ireland has been made in relation to the job offer.

Transferability of Employment Permits

An employment permit is valid only for the employer, the employee and the employment stated on the permit. In the event that a foreign national wishes to change employer or even to change job (but continue working for the same employer) then strictly speaking an application for a new Employment Permit will have to be submitted.

Family Reunification Entitlements

One of the main advantages of the Critical Skills employment permit scheme is that the holder is entitled to immediate family reunification (i.e. their immediate family can travel with them to Ireland from the outset).

The definition of ‘immediate family’ includes the nuclear family (i.e. spouse and any children under the age of 18) and de facto partners (i.e. a de facto relationship is a relationship akin to marriage including cohabitation for 2 years prior to the application for family reunification).

For all other employment permit types, the possibility of employees bringing their immediate family to live with them in Ireland from the outset will depend on (a) the type of employment permit held by the employee and (b) whether or not the employee is a visa requiring national.

For example, given the short-term nature of certain employment permit schemes (i.e. the Atypical Working Scheme) immediate family reunification is not permitted.

For other employment permit types (i.e. General employment permits), the employee may need to be working in Ireland for 12 months before they can apply for their family to join them in Ireland.

Qualifications and Experience of Employees

The DETE have in recent times raised queries with respect to applicants’ qualifications, in particular where applicants do not hold university degrees or have not completed their studies. Clients should be cognisant of the need to emphasise the experience and skills of a particular applicant and the direct link between same and the role offered in circumstances where an applicant’s qualifications may be questioned.

For example, in the context of a Critical Skills employment permit application and in circumstances where the salary payable is less than €64,000 the DETE will usually insist on applicants having both (a) a relevant university degree and (b) the necessary skills and experience to fulfil the role.

GNIB Appointments

There are long delays in securing first registration appointments with the GNIB (for Dublin based applicants) at present. The GNIB have moved from an online booking to a telephone based booking system for first registration appointments. All applications for the renewal of Irish residency permissions are now being processed via the INIS online portal.

Trusted Partner Scheme

The purpose of the scheme is to ease the administrative burden on employers and to remove the requirement that they replicate the same information in respect of each employment permit application. The scheme will streamline the application process for the employer.

The benefits of the scheme are:

  • Fast turnaround of Trusted Partner registration applications – within 20 working days for complete applications.
  • Trusted Partner status valid for 2 years.
  • No fee chargeable in respect of registration on the scheme.
  • Shortened employment permit application forms.
  • Reduced paperwork for every employment permit sought under the scheme.
  • Faster processing times in respect of employment permit applications submitted by Trusted Partners – 12-13 weeks.

Employers that have been granted Trusted Partner Status have access to their own suite of employment permit application forms and their Trusted Partner Registration Number must be quoted on all applications submitted during the validity period of the Trusted Partner Registration.

Aside from the Trusted Partner Registration Number, the Trusted Partner will be required to provide very limited additional details during the application process for an employment permit. There will also be no requirement for the Trusted Partner to sign the employment permit application form. However, each individual employment permit application will need to be signed by the particular employee.

12-month rule

The 12-month rule states that a new Employment Permit for a different employer cannot be considered if less than 12 months has elapsed since the permit holder first commenced employment in the State pursuant to an Employment Permit. This refusal reason attempts to strike a reasonable balance between, on the one hand, the employer’s expectations that the foreign national remain in his or her employment for a reasonable period of time given the costs involved in recruiting that foreign national and, on the other hand, not unduly binding the foreign national to the employer. However, where the following circumstances apply, the Department may permit a Critical Skills Employment holder to change employer:

  • Holder is made redundant;
  • Circumstances (unforeseen at time of application) arise that fundamentally change the employment relationship.
  • If the current employer is willing to provide a letter confirming to the DETE that they have no difficulty with the employee moving to the new employer so soon after commencing employment with them and that they are happy to waive the sponsorship fees incurred in securing the initial employment Permit.

Professional Employer Organisations

A professional employer organisation (PEO) is an outsourcing firm that provides services to typically small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Typically, the PEO offering may include human resource consulting, safety and risk mitigation services, payroll processing, employer payroll tax filing, workforce management technology, and training and development.

The Irish employment permits regime does not currently facilitate outsourcing arrangements whereby foreign companies utilise an Irish based PEO for the purposes of securing the necessary right to work documents to enable non-EEA nationals to work in Ireland.

Key contact

David Cantrell

David Cantrell

Partner, Immigration & Dispute Resolution
Dublin, Ireland

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